A King’s Story: The Memoirs of the Duke of Windsor

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Author: Edward VIII  | Date: 1951

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New York 1951 Fulton, Walter and Halley G. P. Putnam’s Sons

Edward VIII Abdicates

[1936]

On my last morning in Great Britain I was up early, striving to finish the broadcast upon which I worked well into the night. Some in the Government looked coldly upon the idea of my supplying an epilogue to a drama upon which the curtain had already descended. And even my mother tried to dissuade me. But I was determined to speak. I did not propose to leave Great Britain like a fugitive in the night.

It had become part of the Abdication legend that the broadcast was actually written by Mr. Churchill. The truth is that, as he had often done before with other speeches, he generously supplied the final brush strokes. Wanting to say good-bye to my old friend, I invited him to lunch with me that last day at The Fort. Before he left, I asked him to read my modest effort. He made several admirable suggestions that a practiced student of Churchilliana could spot at a glance: "bred in the constitutional tradition by my father"; "one matchless blessing, enjoyed by so many of you and not bestowed on me—a happy home with his wife and children."

While we were thus at table, I ceased to be King. As I saw Mr. Churchill off, there were tears in his eyes. I can still see him standing at the door; hat in one hand, cane in the other. Something must have stirred in his mind; tapping out the solemn measure with his walking stick, he began to recite, as if to himself:

He nothing common did or mean

Upon that memorable Scene:

The lines were from the famous ode by Andrew Marvell on the beheading of King Charles I.

Bertie came into my room alone that evening for a last talk. I was in the midst of packing my most personal possessions. I closed the door, and pushed aside the things on the sofa to make a place for him to sit down.

Shy and retiring by nature, Bertie shrank instinctively from the gregarious life I had lived with some zest. Yet, he possessed admirable qualities—qualities that may not have been so marked in me. He would make a fine King: I was confident of that.

During these last days we had spoken to each other with a frankness recalling the untroubled companionship of our youth. The situation seemed to cry mutely for a symbolical clutching of hands, a passing of the torch. But there is not much that a former monarch can tell his successor.

"You are not going to find this a difficult job at all," I assured him. "You know all the ropes, and you have almost overcome that slight hesitation in your speech that used to make public speaking so hard for you."

Words do not come easily to Bertie on occasions of great emotion; without his having to tell me so, I knew that he felt my going keenly. At the same time Bertie can be extremely practical.

"By the way, David," be asked me, "have you given any thought to what you are going to be called now?"

This question took me aback. "Why, no, as a matter of fact, I haven’t." At that late hour the question of another title seemed of little consequence to a man who had been King. Immediate reflection told me that as the son of the Sovereign, I was in any case by right of birth a Prince of Great Britain and Northern Ireland—His Royal Highness, the Prince Edward. But Bertie had evidently pondered the question; and no doubt judging it proper that I should bear a title at least equal to that of my younger brothers, Harry, the Duke of Gloucester, and George, the Duke of Kent, he said thoughtfully: "I shall create you a Duke. How about the family name of Windsor?"

"Duke of Windsor," I said, half to myself. Liking the sound of it, I nodded agreement.

"It shall be the first act of my reign. I shall announce it at my Accession Council tomorrow morning."

Walter Monckton returned before dinner with the draft of the broadcast, which out of courtesy I had wanted the Government to see. The Prime Minister had dropped a hint that he should be gratified if I should stress that he had at all times shown me every possible form of consideration. "That’s a good one," I said, remembering how he had ignored my simple request the day before that he should do justice in his speech to Wallis. His omission was all the harder to understand because of the apparent benevolence that pervaded his own speech—an autobiographical triumph disguised as a homily on the errors of a King. However, determined not to be petty at the last moment, I incorporated into my broadcast that little item that Mr. Baldwin had valued. Perhaps the rendering of these simple courtesies falls more easily upon kings than upon politicians; after all we do not have to run for office.

I had arranged to dine with my family at Royal Lodge before making the broadcast from Windsor Castle at 10:00 o’clock. Before leaving the Fort I telephoned Wallis at Cannes to tell her that I was on my way and should not be able to talk to her again until sometime on the Sunday.

"Where are you going?" she asked.

"To Zurich."

Surprised, she asked, "But why Zurich?"

"Oh, one of my Household informs me that there is a hotel just outside of the city where I shall be comfortable."

"But you can’t go to a hotel. You will have no privacy; you will be hounded to death."

Until then in my overwrought state I had given little thought to where I would go; and, so long as I could not be with Wallis until April, the question of where I stayed had seemed to me of no importance.

She now made a suggestion. Our friends, the Rothschilds, had invited her to spend Christmas with them at their country home at Enzefeld, near Vienna. Although she had been looking forward to the change, she urged me to go to her place.

"I will telephone them right now," Wallis said. "I am sure they will be glad to have you."

The moment had come to leave The Fort for good. My bags were packed. . . . As I drove off down the hill toward Virginia Water, I turned around for a last look at the place I loved so much. The Fort was in sight only for a few seconds—a mere augenblick—before the motor turned our of the gates, and it disappeared. In that moment I realized how heavy was the price I had paid; for, along with all the other things, I should have to give up The Fort, probably forever. The Fort had been more than a home; it had been a way of life for me. I had created The Fort just as my grandfather had created Sandringham; I loved it the same way; it was there I had passed the happiest days of my life. A few minutes later I joined my family at Royal Lodge. My mother and Mary had come to London; my three brothers were with me in the drawing room. Dinner passed pleasantly enough under the circumstances. I hope I was a good guest, but I rather doubt it.

While we were still at dinner, the butler announced that Walter Monckton had arrived to take me to Windsor Castle. . . . The great Quadrangle was dark and deserted as we entered. . . . I mounted the Gothic staircase to my old rooms in the Augusta Tower, where I found Sir John Reith, the Director of the British Broadcasting System. At my request he had come down from London to supervise the broadcast, bringing with him technicians and equipment. Although I was hardly a novice, he suggested that I run the usual practice routine. So that I might test my voice he handed me a newspaper from which to read aloud. The paragraph I picked at random had an unexpected relevance. It was a report of a speech by Sam Hoare at a tennis gathering, to whose attention he hopefully commended the fact that the new King was an ardent tennis player. This information I read aloud with the utmost gravity. The time signal came. In a deep voice Sir John announced into the microphone: "This is Windsor Castle. His Royal Highness, Prince Edward." With those words my senses became utterly absorbed with the job in hand. Sensing that I might wish to be left alone with Walter Monckton, Sir John slipped out of the room. I do not remember the sound that mystified millions of listeners—the slamming of a door. The noise, I believe, was actually caused by my banging my shoe against the table leg as I shifted my position to read. This is what I said:

At long last I am able to say a few words of my own.

I have never wanted to withhold anything, but until now it has not been constitutionally possible for me to speak.

A few hours ago I discharged my last duty as King and Emperor, and now that I have been succeeded by my brother, the Duke of York, my first words must be to declare my allegiance to him. This I do with all my heart.

You all know the reasons which have impelled me to renounce the Throne, but I want you to understand that in making up my mind I did not forget the Country or the Empire, which, as Prince of Wales and lately as King, I have for 25 years tried to serve.

But you must believe me when I tell you that I have found it impossible to carry the heavy burden of responsibility and to discharge my duties as King, as I wish to do, without the help and support of the woman I love, and I want you to know that the decision I have made has been mine, and mine alone. This was a thing I had to judge for myself. The other person most nearly concerned has tried, up to the last, to persuade me to take a different course. I have made this, the most serious decision of my life, only upon the single thought of what would in the end be best for all.

This decision has been made less difficult to me by the sure knowledge that my brother, with his long training in the public affairs of this Country and with his fine qualities, will be able to take my place forthwith without interruption or injury to the life and progress of the Empire, and he has one matchless blessing enjoyed by so many of you, and not bestowed on me, a happy home with his wife and children.

During these hard days I have been comforted by my Mother and by my Family.

The Ministers of the Crown, and in particularly Mr. Baldwin, the Prime Minister, have always treated me with full consideration. There has never been any constitutional differences between me and them and between me and Parliament. Bred in the constitutional tradition by my father, I should never have allowed any such issue to arise.

Ever since I was Prince of Wales, and later on when I occupied the Throne, I have been treated by the greatest kindness by all classes wherever I have lived or journeyed throughout the Empire. For that I am very grateful.

I now quit altogether public affairs, and I lay down my burden. It may he some time before I return to my native land, but I shall always follow the fortunes of the British race and Empire with profound interest, and if, at any time in the future, I can be found of service to His Majesty in a private station. I shall not fail.

And now we all have a new King.

I wish Him, and you, His people, happiness and prosperity with all my heart.

God bless you all.

God Save the King.

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Chicago: Edward, "Edward VIII Abdicates," A King’s Story: The Memoirs of the Duke of Windsor in History in the First Person: Eyewitnesses of Great Events: They Saw It Happen, ed. Louis Leo Snyder and Richard B. Morris (Harrisburg, Pa.: Stackpole Co., 1951), Original Sources, accessed November 29, 2022, http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=Z3GC27KHTT7GCVH.

MLA: Edward. "Edward VIII Abdicates." A King’s Story: The Memoirs of the Duke of Windsor, in History in the First Person: Eyewitnesses of Great Events: They Saw It Happen, edited by Louis Leo Snyder and Richard B. Morris, Harrisburg, Pa., Stackpole Co., 1951, Original Sources. 29 Nov. 2022. http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=Z3GC27KHTT7GCVH.

Harvard: Edward, 'Edward VIII Abdicates' in A King’s Story: The Memoirs of the Duke of Windsor. cited in 1951, History in the First Person: Eyewitnesses of Great Events: They Saw It Happen, ed. , Stackpole Co., Harrisburg, Pa.. Original Sources, retrieved 29 November 2022, from http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=Z3GC27KHTT7GCVH.